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TMK eyes technology to gain market share

Keywords: Tags  TMK, Vladamir Shmatovich, Prasenjit Adhikari, technology, shale gas, Russia, Catherine Ngai

 HOUSTON — Steel pipe and tube maker TMK Ipsco’s focus on leading technology will propel the pipe and tube maker toward becoming more competitive in the energy markets, company executives told AMM.

"What we’re investing in, in some ways, is ‘state of the art.’ Not only is it in line with the technology that’s currently in place, but we’re also looking at the trends for the future," Prasenjit Adhikari, TMK vice president and chief technology officer, told AMM. "The industry is moving toward unconventional energy recovery areas. That’s the area and direction that oil companies are moving, and so are our competitors."

On Monday, TMK Ipsco launched its $26-million, 70,000-square-foot research facility in Houston, the first stage in the company’s move from its headquarters in Downers Grove, Ill. to Texas (, Oct. 2). The center includes equipment that can undertake corrosion, tensile strength, fatigue and load testing.

"Texas is an oil and gas capital of the world. We’re strategically moving here because of our customers and partners in the industry. We think the move will be important," Vladimir V. Shmatovich, senior vice president of strategy and business development at Moscow-based parent OAO TMK, told AMM.

Shmatovich added that the company aims to be ambitious, especially in light of the booming shale gas reserves in the United States, while also looking ahead to strategic growth opportunities.

"We’re looking at growth in the United States ... and we’re looking for strategic options in North America and definitely in the state of Texas," he added, declining to give further details.

The challenge, however, will be how traditional pipe and tube markets will be able to feed into unconventional drilling, even horizontal drilling.

"We’re looking into unconventional drilling, which is driving technology advances in the area, but there’s still lots of ground to be covered," Adhikari said. "The days of the standard oil rigs are gone. We’re seeing a lot more aggressive environments, such as (exposure to) hydrogen sulfide gas—gas that’s very hostile to bare steel. We’re also going deeper and we’re going to need to have material that can withstand those conditions. ... The pipe has to have the ability to take different types of stresses."

At TMK’s Houston research center, various rooms are equipped with microscopes that can magnify fractures in pipe and chemical makeup. Equipment that can heat or cool materials at extreme temperatures tests the company’s products to ensure they meet American Petroleum Institute standards.

Shmatovich said the research facility is unique to both the company and the pipe and tube sector.

Not only does it aim to thrive in innovation, it will also compliment the parent’s existing research facility in Chelyabinsk, Russia, he said.

"We’re No. 3 in the world right now ... but we’re ambitious, and I believe we can become No. 2," he said.

"We want to move away from the commodity markets and into higher technology."

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